Twitter and Nonprofits–Finally getting the big picture

This post was written by a student in the Stanford’s Winter 2011 Networked Rhetoric class; it was designed to focus in on a particular source or research experience related to his/her project on social media and digital culture .  See a more detailed overview of this assignment.

For my Network themed writing class I chose to investigate the relationship between nonprofits and Twitter.  The number of nonprofits using Twitter as a means of communication is expanding rapidly.  They are finding unique ways to manipulate 140 characters to help them achieve social good.  And Twitter is encouraging the trend with tips for nonprofits and a website highlighting success stories.  My paper is going to examine creative and effective ways that nonprofits use Twitter as well as ways that they could improve the impact that social media has for their cause.

I was initially frustrated by my early academic research that wasn’t yielding exactly what I wanted.  There are few articles about ONLY Twitter and nonprofits and those I did stumble upon were either very sort, or simply a collection of stories about nonprofits tweeting.  What I did find was a plethora of articles about social media and nonprofits.  But these tended to restrict Twitter to a few sentences, highlighting Facebook and other more complex forms of social media rather than delving into the intricacies of 140 characters.  My frustration built, why had no one compiled all the information I wanted into an easy to access article?  Why was no one talking about JUST nonprofits and Twitter?

My instructor forwarded me a recently published article from US News and World Report about Social Networks working for causes.  It followed the normal form—including the trend of only a few Twitter focused sentences—but something clicked.  Social networks are not independent.  And Twitter—more than any other—can be used as a connector.  It’s a way to link to other places and send followers all over the internet searching for new material about an organization or a cause.

So I’ve been rethinking the way that this will impact my project.  While my focus will still be Twitter, I can’t rule out other forms of social media and the way that Twitter works to enhance the use of these forms.  Social media is all about connecting, after all—whether people to organizations or social media to social media.

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This entry was posted in CCR exchange: Student Research, Networked Rhetoric: Section 1, Stanford Networked Rhetorics class. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Twitter and Nonprofits–Finally getting the big picture

  1. Pingback: Researching Networked Culture | The Cross-Cultural Rhetoric Blog

  2. wendylinlu says:

    It’s true that it can be hard to find academic sources about social media. I have had the same problem with my project, which is about personal branding and marketing yourself online. I think part of the reason is that the concept of using online tools to market a product/cause/person/etc. is so new, and constantly changing. Even when information finally does get published in a book, it is likely to already be obsolete, since social media tools and the way we use them develop so quickly. I agree from experience that Twitter does serve as a “connector.” For example, people can broadcast an event or development, which others can explore more deeply on other sites if they are intereste.

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